Afghanistan seen through history’s lens in Vail |

Afghanistan seen through history’s lens in Vail

R.D. Ward/Special to the Daily

VAIL, Colorado ” Vail Symposium’s Active Minds Series continues with a look at war-torn Afghanistan, a key player in the U.S.-led war on terror. The program on Wednesday will be taught by Active Minds co-founder John Henderson at the Singletree Community Center at 5:30 p.m. Like all Active Minds presentations, the event is free to the public.

“The focus will be historical,” Henderson said. “To understand Afghanistan, we must look through the lens of a people who have been invaded many times.

“Afghanistan has frequently been a pawn in larger games,” Henderson continued. “Whether we’re talking about European Colonialism, the Cold War, or the War on Terrorism.”

Geography has played a large part in the country’s history. Historically, Afghanistan has been a nexus where many Indo-European civilizations have mixed and often clashed. It was conquered by the Medians and Persians, Alexander the Great, Turks and Genghis Khan. From the 19th century on, it was invaded by the British, the Soviets and the United States and its allies.

In 2001, the United States led a coalition invasion of Afghanistan to oust the ruling Taliban and find Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. In the same year, the U.N. Security Council authorized the creation of an International Security Assistance Force comprised of NATO troops to assist the government of President Hamid Karzai.

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International leaders hoped Karzai would be a modifying, unifying secular force.

“Some blame him as being ineffectual while others say his task was too difficult if not impossible,” Henderson said. “Karzai has claimed that the funds he required to effect necessary change were all sent to Iraq and not to Afghanistan, where al Qaeda originated.”

Addressing recent challenges, Henderson said he would focus “specifically on the Obama administration’s increased troop presence in coordination with efforts to bolster NATO; the role of the Taliban; the destabilizing role of al Qaeda; and the economic drivers of instability.”

Two existing issues highlighted by Henderson are those of nationalism and leadership.

“In Afghanistan, we won’t find everyone saluting one flag, singing one anthem, or rooting for a soccer team. The country has been through 30 years of war and a movement toward local levels of power structures centered around war lords.”

As a part of the Vail Symposium’s mission to offer affordable educational opportunities in the Vail Valley, the Active Minds series has been offered since the summer of 2006. The program is designed to introduce impartial understanding of historical, timely, and sometimes controversial subjects. The Symposium partners with Denver-based Active Minds for Seniors and Eagle County for to produce these programs. Visit for more information.

What: Vail Symposium’s Active Minds Series continues with a presentation on Afghanistan

When: 5:30 to 7 p.m., Wednesday

Where: Singletree Community Center, Edwards

Cost: Free

More information: call 970-476-0954 or visit

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